In Australia, as in most other industrialized economies, there is growing concern about the work capacity of older workers and their retention in the workforce against a background of population aging and efforts to prolong working lives. It is widely recognized that working later will be promoted by equipping industry and workers with instruments that can gauge working potential. Although policy makers in most industrialized nations now consider an extension of working lives as the basis of sustaining welfare systems and offsetting decline in the number of young labor market entrants, globalization and the competition this fosters present as a strong countervailing force for both government and employers. Certain groups, including older workers with few or outdated skills, and those with declining health may be particularly affected by job insecurity and long-term unemployment. Reconciling these seemingly countervailing tensions is a problem now facing a number of industrialized economies. A resilient older worker whose skills and capabilities can easily adjust as the requirements of the market shift would help maintain labor productivity growth even as populations age (Hagemann and Nicoletti 1989). "From Introduction"
BACKGROUND: Older workers are less physically active and have a higher rate and cost of injury than younger workers and so have reduced work-ability. Concurrently, sedentary behaviour in the workplace, in transport and in the home is increasing and has harmful health effects. Walking is a familiar, convenient, and free form of health-enhancing physical activity that can be integrated into working life and sustained into older age however workplace walking programs targeted at older workers have not been evaluated. PURPOSE: We designed a randomised-controlled trial to evaluate the impact of a phased individually-tailored 10-week walking program on work-day steps, health status and work-ability of employees at an Australian university with an ageing sedentary workforce. METHODS: A convenience sample of 154 academic and administrative employees aged 45-70 years will be recruited and randomly allocated to either an experimental (walking) group or control (maintain usual activity) group. Participants will be provided with a pedometer and complete measures for step count, % body fat, waist circumference, blood pressure, self-reported physical activity, psychological wellbeing and work-ability, at baseline and end-intervention. 'Walkers' will select approaches tailored to their individual preference, psychological characteristics or life circumstances. Two distinct intervention phases will target adoption (weeks 2-5) and adherence (weeks 7-12) using 'Stages of Behaviour Change' principles. An ANOVA will test for effect of treatment on outcome with the baseline value entered as a covariate. DISCUSSION: This study will test whether tailoring worksite walking is an effective means of promoting health-enhancing physical activity in ageing sedentary workers.